Thunder Bay

'Frustration across the board' over proposed permanent turf sports facility in Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay city council's request for another report on a proposed permanent indoor turf facility is frustrating the local soccer community.

Thunder Bay city council requests another report on facility at Monday meeting

Michael Veneziale, president of Soccer Northwest, said he's frustrated by Thunder Bay city council's decision Monday to request a report on a proposed permanent turf sports facility. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The president of Soccer Northwest says there's "frustration across the board" over Thunder Bay city council's Monday decision to request another report on a proposed indoor turf sports facility.

On Monday night, council requested administration prepare a report on costs, financing options and possible locations for a permanent indoor turf facility, which would allow sports like soccer, football and baseball to be played year-round, city community services manager Kelly Robertson told CBC's Superior Morning on Tuesday.

That report is expected to be back before council on June 3.

However, Michael Veneziale, president of Soccer Northwest, said the city already has a comprehensive report on the subject.

"We paid $136,000 for a plan from Stantec to find out what a permanent facility would cost, timeline, and we went through user feasibility," Veneziale said. "We already have that. I'm confused as to why it needs to happen again."

That plan was presented to council in January 2018. It identified Chapples as the best spot for the facility, and put the cost at about $25 million. The plan also stated the structure would take about 18 months to build.

The new report requested by council on Monday night amounts to duplicating work, Veneziale said.

We already know what type of facility that is needed, we already know the layout of what is required, we know all of that already," he said.

And while council has said a permanent structure is the priority, it hasn't completely quashed the idea of building an interim turf facility in the meantime, Robertson said.

"They've kind of put that in abeyance, put that on hold, and they wanted us to proceed to really focus in a little bit more detail on a permanent solution," she said. "I'm going to have to dust off some of the options that I looked at probably about a year ago now, when we were going through a process of validating with the community that proposed Chapples Park permanent solution."

"Given the fiscal challenges that our city faces ... do we need that exact design, or would the community be acceptable to eliminating some components?" she said. "That's going to be a question I'll ask the indoor turf users."

Veneziale said there are issues with an interim structure at this point.

"The issue to that is, I can't see the city or any private businessperson wanting to put forward that much money for a four-year plan," Veneziale said. "As a businessperson, if they were to come forward and say 'okay, we have this interim solution,' they're going to spend five, seven million dollars, whatever it is, and knowing they'd essentially be put out of business by the city, just isn't good business."

Indoor soccer seasons lost

"We're kind of hamstrung, because if we go with the permanent facility right now, we're going to be without any type of facility for three or four years."

Veneziale said that timeline would also mean the loss of four more indoor soccer seasons.

He said four indoor soccer seasons have already been lost due to a lack of space to play indoor soccer in Thunder Bay since the 2016 collapse of the Sports Dome.

Efforts to set up an interim indoor soccer facility on Maureen Street in 2017 were halted after a private company complained to the Ontario Municipal Board.